“You were better off away from here. You would have been stuck hiding with me on the top of this hill, if you hadn’t been sent away. But instead, you can create. You can…transform people. That’s very powerful. Use it. Use it against them.”
–Molly (Judy Davis) to Tilly (Kate Winslet) in THE DRESSMAKER
Last night I enthusiastically watched one of Amazon’s recent acquisitions, THE DRESSMAKER. Based on the novel of the same name by Rosalie Ham and directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse, the wildly ambitious tale of “love, revenge and haute couture” arms the central character with a sketch pad and tailor’s chalk. Initially released in Australia in 2015, it made its limited US opening in 2016. I immediately vibed with Kate Winslet’s opening line “I’m back, you bastards” and the theme of revenge via transformation. I am inspired by Ms. Winslet’s performance and look in the film, and kind of fell in love with the whole thing.
It’s not a perfect work. The editing seems clunky or rushed to me. And it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea: it exists in a universe that could have been birthed by Lemony Snicket and schooled by Lasse Hallström and Quentin Tarantino. But there is so much lovable quirk, camp, and couture, I can easily see THE DRESSMAKER gathering a US cult following among artsy content-streamers this year.
Judy Davis is brilliant and I hope her heavy-lifting is recognized by viewers. She’s making everyone’s else’s job easier in every scene. I re-watched a couple of her scenes to try to figure out how she’s doing it. Her brain is so agile, working at thoughtfully-constructed depths as she takes ownership of this complicated character, and then we only get to see what bubbles to the top. It’s spectacular.
Hugo Weaving. HUGO WEAVING. His performance as the cross-dressing police sergeant, Horatio Farrat, is equally smart, brave, and delightful. Horatio’s obsession with fabric and fashion many audience members will immediately recognize as their own. You’ll either get it (and become bewitched yourself) or you won’t.
Liam Hemsworth is exactly who you would want Liam Hemsworth to be. I mean, not around silos, but everywhere else.
I highly recommend this film to my friends, and I want to go out for drinks and talk to you about it asap.